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By Raymond Racicot, Veterinarian

Osteoarthritis, the main condition of the musculoskeletal system, is also very common in the spine. It results in irreversible degradation of the articular cartilage, and changes in all the structures of the joint.


Differences Between Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

  • Arthritis is an inflammatory condition of the joint resulting in pain, swelling and local heat with or without redness. Its origin can be infectious, inflammatory, genetic or food intolerance.

  • Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition, cartilage wear resulting in progressive destruction without inflammation, affecting all joints and this at the end of growth. It is mainly due to two factors: genetics and mechanics.

Pain is the major clinical sign of osteoarthritis.

Life hygiene (diet, supplements, exercise…), medications, physiotherapy, osteopathy, surgery can slow the evolution and bring a better being to the animal, but prevention should be the priority.

  

Articulation, Cartilage, Synovial …
What’s this?

The joint is the joint between two bones of the skeleton. It allows to perform movements. At this point, the ends of the bones are smooth, rounded and provided with a layer of cartilage. 

The joint is closed by a synovial membrane containing the synovial fluid, and maintained by ligaments and an articular capsule.

  • Cartilage is the white, slightly translucent, smooth, shiny surface that covers joint surfaces. It is an elastic and resistant fabric. With each movement it allows articular surfaces to slide on one another.

  • Synovial fluid, or synovium, is a clear, colourless, thick, viscous liquid, secreted by the synovial membrane that has 3 functions: filter, lubricants, and damper.


Construction and Destruction of Cartilage

The cartilage is made up of water, chondrocyte cells and collagen fibres. It is this fibrous matrix that will give the cartilage its properties (elasticity, resistance, damping).

The cartilage layer is constantly renewed, through the process of destruction, and reconstruction of chondrocytes.

 

What Happens During Osteoarthritis?

During osteoarthritis, there is a break in this fragile balance:

  • Increased destruction
  • Disruption of construction
  • Production of poor quality fibres

 Resulting in pain, loss of function and loss of mobility.

 

Who is Affected by Osteoarthritis?

Estimations are that one in five dogs is affected by this condition. Cats are also affected. Young animals can also be affected, for example:

  1. obesity (the return of obesity to a normal weight reduces the risk by 30%)
  2. trauma, repeated micro-traumas (ex: training ground too hard)
  3. bad feet (check claws in small animals)
  4. overwork or training too young
  5. growth too fast, overweight during growth
  6. a poor diet
  7. some large breeds are predisposed (Labrador, German Shepherd, Bernese Mountain Dog, Danish, Newfoundland, Golden Retriever, etc.)

Contrary to popular belief, young animals can also be affected by osteoarthritis: osteoarthritis is not a fatality related to simple aging, and many factors affect its installation… Vigilance and Prevention!!

 

What if my Pet is Affected?

Osteoarthritis does not cure, but you can:

  • Prevent its appearance
  • Slow down its evolution
  • Relieve your pet
  • Improve your comfort of life

The care is multiple and aims to “break” the vicious circle of the disease:

  • Maintain movement and preserve muscle:
    1. lmoderate and regular exercise is essentially
    2. Passive and active physiotherapy exercises may be required
  • The diet:
    1. Fight against excess weight
    2. To have optimal growth
    3. Avoid deficiencies and excesses
    4. Avoid processed, refined foods that acidify the bod
  • Anti-inflammatories:
    NSAIDs and corticosteroids in phases of acute attacks. Be careful though, their long-term use is contraindicated, especially on older animals. 
  • Natural supplements:
    Glucosamine, chondroitin, hydrolyzed collagen, cat’s claw, turmeric extract, piperine, etc. are good allies for the prevention of joint degeneration and pain related to osteoarthritis. They are part of the active ingredients in the supplements offered for pets. They are also complementary to veterinary treatments.

Prevention remains an important factor in your pet’s life, especially if it has hereditary predispositions.

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